Jim Siergey: To View Or Not To View…

September 20th, 2020

The movie was airing on TCM that night and I hadn’t seen it since I was a youth. I thought about watching it again. I almost did but in the end (spoiler alert!) I didn’t.

The movie? It was “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” from 1949 starring Bing Crosby. I had a fond memory of it from whenever it was that I watched it. Bing Crosby was okay (at the time I also enjoyed the Hope-Crosby “Road Pictures” so I must have been rather young) and was familiar with the story having had read Mark Twain’s tale…in a hardbound edition, no less.

There weren’t a lot of books in the house I grew up in but there was a 24 hardcover volume of the complete works of Mark Twain. The set had been a gift to my mother when she was a young girl which must have been somewhere in the 1930s. The books were green in color. The spines had the title and the volume number lettered in gold on two black bands. In between was a cameo of the visage of Mark Twain. On the front was a black oval outlined in gold and in the center was a stylized M and T entwined with one another in gold as well.  Fancy stuff.

These were the books I read growing up a kid in Cicero.  Lucky me.

So, anyway I was thinking about maybe watching the filmed version again after all these years. It must not have weighed too heavily on my mind because by the time I turned on the set it was already fifteen minutes into the movie.

connecticutyankee

Der Bingle & friend…

 

Bing was already in King Arthur’s court and a knight of the Round Table (William Bendix!) had him pinned to a wall with his mighty lance. (Hmmm, if one had even the scintilla of a dirty mind the ending of that sentence reads a bit like it might be the description of a scene from “King Arthur’s Court in a Connecticut Yankee”.)

Nevertheless, even so, however, I continued to watch. One noticeable detail about the pic that was different from my childhood viewing was that dis pitcha wuz in color!   I had only seen it on a black and white TV. The color was rather garish and the blazing combination of the blue of Der Bingle’s eyes and the red of Rhonda Fleming’s hair forced me to don a pair of shades.

(Unfortunately, they were still attached to the lamps.—ba-dum-tss!)

So I did view for a few, actually more than a few, minutos. The role of King Arthur was played by the great British thespian Cedric Hardwicke and he was hilarious! He is what kept me watching for as long as I did.  Whenever I think of Cedric Hardwicke, which I admit, is very close to never, I don’t think of comedy. But here he was and his timing was terrific. The old trouper.

However, at one point Bing began singing so I switched away and never looked back.

There are three hundred and thirty one million stories in the Covid City. Some are interesting and many are not. This has been one of them.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Coping With Covid

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Jim Siergey: Coping With Covid

September 6th, 2020

This Covid-19 thing, man. I mean, am I right?  Shee-it.

This administration’s approach to Covid-19 awareness was, at best, lukewarm so it has been no surprise that not all people accepted the virus as a real danger especially since the “president” referred to it, among other things, as a fake virus and a hoax.  Sigh.

I hope it is a long time before I hear the words ‘fake’, ‘hoax’ and ‘deal’ again.  Hollow words from a hollow man.

Beg pardon, T.S.

But would it have been too much to ask, not only of us the people but of the government as well to become versed and practiced in a universal response to the encroaching pandemic? Stay at home as much as possible, wash your hands thoroughly and regularly and when in public, wear a mask.

Common sense, yes?  Where have you gone, Thomas Paine?

thomaspaineThere’s Thomas…

 

As for me, I’ve been following the guidelines with no problem…wash hands, wear a mask, don’t mingle, don’t cough, keep a clean nose, watch the plain clothes and always know which way the wind blows.

You know what I mean?

My personal routine hasn’t been altered much either.  Being a bit of an introvert, I’ve been social distancing for years.  I have also been fortunate enough to have made a living as a free-lance artist whereupon I rarely, sometimes never, had to leave the house to meet with people or deliver artwork. With the advent of computers, I have been able to become even more isolated from dealing with people in person.

As Edenic as that sounds to an incontrovertible introvert I have a love/hate relationship with computers. They are, without question, marvelous inventions that harbor and deliver scores of information and streamline so many activities.

But I also have never in my life been as frustrated or angry as I sometimes get using a computer.

I have literally, with reddened face and neck veins ready to burst, screamed at a malfunctioning computer. I have called it the most vile names ever construed by man. I have thrown my hands in the air and emitted a primal howl that would have sent my pre-mankind ancestors into hiding.

Perhaps I didn’t mention that I am a wee bit of an impatient sort.

The journey takes a back seat to my getting there. I drum my fingers. I tap my foot. My hand is poised above the car horn. When will this, whatever it is, be over? That kind of impatient sort.

That impatience gets tested every time I sign onto the computer but even more so these days. Because of Covid-19, more and more people are working from home. Add to that all the online schooling that most of the nation is undertaking and you’ve got an information superhighway traffic jam of Brobdingnabian proportions!

So, I guess I am finally feeling the effects of the Covid-19 infestation. If it had been handled carefully and competently from the beginning, there wouldn’t  be so many people working from home today and e-learning might not be in such abundant use and I wouldn’t be sitting here, hair tousled, shirt collar ripped open, gasping for breath and massaging my chest to placate the pangs of pain striking within as I try to send a goddamn email does it have to take this long and how many times must I reboot and I hope you rot in hell, Donald fucking Trump thank you very much NOT!

So, uh..yeah, Covid-19.  Am I right?

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Bye, Cycle

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Jim Siergey: Bye, Cycle…

August 29th, 2020

Bicycles. I can’t understand how people can keep their balance on them.

Some people can’t fathom how airplanes can stay airborne. I can’t fathom how people can stay upright on those two-wheeled death-defying contraptions.

Yet I see people doing it all the time. Skinny people, hefty folks, old geezers and children. Children rode bikes when I was a child too.

Not me.

I had a bike as a kid but any time I got astride it and began pedaling it would find a tree. Ultimately, the front fender got so dented that it rubbed against the tire preventing it from rolling. One positive outcome from that was the lessening of bruises and abrasions on my body, as well as the people I would ride into.

So I would run alongside the kids who rode their bikes. I became a pretty good runner.

As I stumbled into adulthood, I came across less people who rode bikes. This was good because I was beginning to get winded. But, eventually, biking became popular with adults as did exercise!

We had a stationary bike in our basement for a while. I don’t remember where it came from so I was unable to return it. I did try riding it at times. Unlike the treadmill which I would occasionally fall off of, I stayed upright on the bike. It being stationary was a big asset.

dennisthemenaceonbike

Our correspondent–back in the day…

 

But I couldn’t pedal it for more than a minute. Maybe two, but I doubt it. My thighs couldn’t take it.  How did the constant up and down action of pedaling combined with the concentration needed to stay upright become an enjoyable activity?

Besides the muscle cramping repetition and the stress of staying balanced, there are so many other obstacles and hazards of which one needs to be ever so vigilant; sidewalk cracks, curbs, potholes, pedestrians, automobiles, trucks, buses, other bicyclists…trees!

I’m perspiring and shaking like an aspen just thinking about it.

Ten years ago, okay, maybe twenty years ago I made an attempt at riding a bike. I don’t know whose bike it was but the fool let me take a spin down the block on it.  I didn’t even make it down half a block.

For one thing it wouldn’t stay straight. It would veer from one edge of the sidewalk to the other like a steel ball in a pinball machine. The darn thing must have been in need of an alignment or something. That was a bit unnerving but the most frightening aspect of the bike was that metal bar extending from under the bicycle seat to the bar that connected the handlebars.

That metal bar, just inches from a part of my body that I held dear and which would hurt dearly if by some fluke, some sidewalk crack, some fallen twig, child’s toy or dead squirrel would cause the bike to suddenly jerk forward and act as the landing area for my nether regions as I was thrown from my seatbeltless bicycle seat.

That metal bar was all I could think of as the bike picked up speed as it crisscrossed across the crosswalk. There was only one thing left for me to do and that was to abandon ship. With my heart in my throat and no other thought in my mind but self preservation I leapt off of the beast and watched it skid along the cement, bump along the grass and run into a tree.

Like I said, I don’t remember whose bike it was but I suppose he or she rescued the bike and I most likely never saw it or him/her again. Needless to say but I’ll say it anyway—I have never gone near a bicycle again.

I’d rather hug trees than hurt them.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Bunny

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Jim Siergey: The Bunny

August 14th, 2020

There’s a little bunny that has appeared in our yard. I guess it’s now his yard as well as it appears in various sections and hops around through the greenery.

It appears to be content munching on the grass and various grasslike weeds that grow in the yard so that’s good. As long as it keeps its sharp little incisors away from flowering plants and vegetables, it is welcome.

But the thing is so damn cute, how could we ever chase it away? And even if we did, would we really? Even Mr. McGregor couldn’t handle Peter and he was a farmer.

The little bunny will even come up to the sliding glass door that opens from our kitchen unto the back yard and sit on its haunches peering inside.  It is so cloyingly cute that it melts my cold, cold heart.

Even though I know I shouldn’t, I will sometimes leave some lettuce out for the lovable little lagomorph. I never see it being consumed but it does disappear.

One day I was sitting in a chair out on the concrete slab that serves as our patio and the bunny came up to the edge and sat there munching on the grass. Its reflective eyes were endearing looking yet filled with alertness and its body set in a position to quickly hop away if needed.

I tried to pay it no mind, glancing occasionally at it over the edge of my book, and did not move any part of my body so I wouldn’t scare it away. I was trying to develop a comfort level between us.

I had attained such a level of comfort that I forgot about its presence and became engrossed in my book. The serene silence was broken by a sentence uttered in a guttural voice.

“Are you the one who leaves the lettuce?”

I dropped my book and looked around expecting to find my wife nearby doing a Lionel Stander imitation but there was no one but me in the yard. No one but me and…the bunny.

I peered at the creature and was able to utter “Excuse me?”

It cocked its head at me and then sat up on its haunches before speaking clearly and distinctly.

“I said are you the one who leaves the lettuce?”

“Y-you can talk!”

“Obviously.”

I began to blubber and stammer until the bunny held up a paw to cease my incoherencies and asked, “So, you got any more of that stuff?”

“Yes, inside.”

“Well, lead on, chum.”

I slid open the glass door and the bunny hopped in. It sat on its haunches purveying the room, its little nose and whiskers twitching a mile a minute. It finally spoke again.

“Nice place you got here.”

“Th-thanks. Uh, the lettuce is in here.”

I opened the refrigerator door to retrieve the leafy greens and that’s how a talking bunny came to live with us.

My wife enjoyed the novelty of a cute talking bunny adopting us although it did have some drawbacks such as the trail of bunny droppings that had to be cleaned up. In response to our complaining he would say, “Hey, you can take a bunny out of the wild but you can’t take the wild out of a bunny”.

We tried toilet training him but he would sneer and say that he was no cat so we attached a little doggie door so he could take care of his business outdoors.

Other than that he was pleasant company. He wasn’t knowledgeable about politics or sports but was quite an authority on nature (duh) and practiced a Zen-like approach to existence. It was always all about “being in the moment” with him. He also had quite a ribald sense of humor and cracked many a joke I would be too embarrassed to repeat here.

We attempted to make a little bed for him but he decided to take over the guest room instead. We objected at first but he looked so cute tucked in under the covers on that expanse of bedding with his furry little head nestled on the downy pillow.

He learned how to work the TV too but all he ever watched was back to back to back episodes of “Three’s Company” on the TVLand channel. He claimed he was an aficionado of the comic timing of John Ritter but I knew he watched it for the same reason anyone watched it. After binge-watching he would get up and leave via his personal door and be gone for days at a time, returning with a cockiness to his hop and what looked like a smile upon his face.

So, yeah, we live with a talking bunny now. I’d invite ya’ll over to meet him but we have this Covid-19 thing going on…

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Chest Fever

 

 

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Jim Siergey: Chest Fever

August 6th, 2020

Now, I don’t want to get all science fictiony or post-apocalyptic on you but my future views of America are not seen through rose-colored lenses.  And the future I’m talking about is, like, next year.

I would be more surprised than a toddler’s first experience with a Jack-in-the-Box if anything beyond what hasn’t been done so far regarding the Coronavirus occurs. No one is going to step in and grab Trump by the shoulders and shake him until some sense of reality gets knocked loose from the recesses of the charred remnants of his mind. Therefore, more of the same will continue on into 2021.

The anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-news movement is not going away. Neither is the do-nothing Republican (aka Trump) Party. Therefore, there will be no serious combating of the pandemic, no thoughtful approach toward dealing with an eroding economy or a safe way for schools to open, no development of safety nets for the burgeoning homelessness that will be occurring as apartment dwellers and homeowners are cast onto the streets for non-payment of rents and mortgages. Add to that the apartment building owners who will soon follow without tenants to assist in their payment of utility bills, property taxes and mortgages.

The picture this all paints is a drab one. Not one to frame and hang in the family room.

If all continues as it has, it won’t be long before the streets of big cities that once housed thriving businesses, multitudes of restaurants, drinking establishments, etc. will resemble the main streets of small towns that unfortunately have been blanketing our nation for some years now, i.e. mostly boarded up and empty.

The streets won’t be filled with pedestrians, tourists and shoppers. They will be replaced with the walking wounded, the stumbling sabotaged, the dazed and the dire.  Coughing, chest clutching and collapsing will be the activities du jour while the aura of death hovers like a vaporous shroud as the numbers of those who have unnecessarily succumbed continue to rise.

pogosiergeyPogo was right!

 

 

The Coronavirus and the half-hearted (if heart can even be included in this thought process) approach to taking it seriously and treating it as the serious health threat that it is may be to us as the asteroid was to the dinosaurs.

So, what can a poor boy do…except sing in a rock’n’roll band (to lift a verse from The Stones—don’t sue me, boys) and even that would be fruitless because musicians and actors are more out of work than they usually are. Even the simplest tasks of getting together with friends, family and other loved ones is thwarted to a major degree by this pandemic that the powers that be have ignored and the many “citizens” who have refused to comply with even the simplest of health measure suggestions.

As Pogo once said “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Whew. Even for a pessimist, this is a pretty bleak view. But, please, somebody change my mind! Show me where I’m wrong. Paint me another picture that contains brighter colors but nix on the unicorns and rainbows. I’m desperate but not gullible.

Of course, if a Blue Wave or Tsunami does occur, positive changes will occur, or so we hope (We meaning the pro-science, pro-intellectual, pro-news people). But that won’t happen until January. That’s six months away or, in other words, an eon away!

That all said, I can find a smidgeon of positiveness in the occurrence of a Blue Tsunami. It will present a host of new, young faces in Congress with many of them female and of diverse ethnicities. That, to me, would be a positive step. A’course, politics corrupts but if we rid ourselves of the bad influence of old-timers who have been suckling at the teat of taxpayers well beyond the weaning period, so much the better.

Desperate times should call for idealistic measures…or am I getting too Frank Capra?

This new generation of young people is encouraging too, civic-minded marchers for equality that they appear to be. We have a chance to make this so-called “New Normal”really be a New Normal!

My gosh, are my lenses developing a tint of rose?

That’s about the best I can do regarding coming up with a soothing bromide to end this grim diatribe. So, in the meantime, try your best to live, laugh and love—but keep that fucking mask on!

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Forth & Back

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Jim Siergey: Forth & Back

July 25th, 2020

Take this and sit here.

No, lie there. Relax. Everything will be fine.

Eventually.

Would you like to put this on? Here, put it on.

Okay, take it off.

Whatever.

 

Yes, that’s an orange.

Yes, it’s beautiful. Everything is beautiful.

Horses? Yes, they’re beautiful too.

Would you like to hear some music?

Yes, it’s beautiful.

It embodies the universe.

The horses do too.

And the orange.

 

What is it you want?

What is it you need?

What is it?

No, it won’t last long.

Well, actually, it will. But what is time but a concept?

More than a concept. Time exists.

You can’t see it but you can feel it.

It’s always there but almost never when you need it or want it.

Funny, huh?

Time trudges, time flies, sometimes it seems to stand still.

Yes, like now.

It flows, it marches, it oozes, it keeps.

There’s no end to time.

It just is.

There’s no dealing with it so just deal with it.

 

Be careful. Everything is alive so watch your step.

And watch what you say.

Heads up. Hands up. Eyes down. Don’t smile. Don’t laugh. Don’t be a wise guy.

Choose your words. Pick your spot. Turn your head and cough.

 

Respect, reject, rejoice, rehab, relo, refrain, restrain, remain.

Yeah, it’s heavy.

 

No, it’s not over yet. You still have a way to go.

What is the way to go?

This way.

Maybe that way.

Anyway or no way.

All the way.

With Santa Fe.

Do you know the way

to San Jose?

Dionne Warwick, Dion DiMucci, Deion Sanders, Deanne Durbin.

I can’t go on.

I’ll go on

Dionne quintuplets.

 

Ah, that should do it. I think we’re done.

There is no end but this is the end.

For now.

Relax.

Everything will be fine.

—Written after viewing Roger Corman’s “The Trip” (1967)

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was My Life As A Bird

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Jim Siergey: My Life As A Bird

July 14th, 2020

When I’m outside sweating under the sun doing lawn work, mowing, weeding, etc., I am serenaded by the chirping, tweeting, trilling, twittering, chirruping, etc. of various birds.

I used the term ‘serenaded’ but I know that those birds are mocking me. From the surrounding trees and bushes not a peep is heard until I am out there beginning to toil. Then suddenly, the air is filled with a cacophony of cheep trills. They chatter back and forth among themselves aiming their avian barbs at me.

“Look at that guy, pushing that machine back and forth, back and forth.”

“Ha! Now he’s bending over pulling growth out of the greenery.”

“Haw! Look how he squats and kneels and crawls along snipping and pulling.”

“Look how drenched with sweat he is. What purpose does this serve? Does it help him survive? Does it feed him?”

“What fools these mortals be.”

That is what I imagine them saying to one another. That last statement is obviously beaked by a robin that, in my book, is not a very good fellow at all.

I try to blot out all that fowl ridicule by letting my mind wander but where my mind wanders to is wondering what it would be like to be a bird.

Oh, how wondrous it would be to be able to fly; to take wing, to flap, glide and soar in the sky, to be able to plummet like a stone and then gently alight on a twig that looks barely strong enough to hold you, to fly to the top of the tallest tree and perch atop the tiptopmost branch and survey what lies below you.

To be a bird, to not have to sweat or fret about an income, the payment of bills, perfunctory chores, religion, politics, race relations, the latest this and that, just fly, man. Just fly and sing.

These thoughts paraded through my head as I knelt in the grass digging at dandelions when the next thing I knew I wasn’t thinking of those things anymore. I was eye to eye with a dandelion.

I was in tall grass. I looked down and saw that my legs were now scrawny bird legs with bird feet and bird toes.  My body was covered with feathers. I moved my arms. They flapped. I had wings. I was a bird!

markthebirdfidrych

No, not that bird…

 

What the flock? Somehow my daydream had come true. I don’t know what kind of bird I was but I was a bird. I tried out my bird legs and hopped. So far, so good.  Now for the wings. I crouched, waggled my tail feathers and flapped my beautiful new wings.

Whoa! This was similar to the first time I drove a car. I couldn’t keep straight and herky jerkied from side to side but I soon righted myself. I was aloft and it was wonderful.

The yonder was indeed blue and wild. I dipped, I dove, I glided, I soared. I was king of the world.I felt like I could do this forever but I soon began to tire. It was time for me to try my hand at landing.

Ah, a telephone wire. I see birds perch on them all the time. What could be so hard—oooops. This takes some balancing. I had to work with my tail feathers to right myself on the now wobbling wire but I finally did it. I was perched. Now for some wire walking. One can’t hop like one does on land, I had to sidestep along the wire. Eat your heart out, Karl Wallenda.

Soon I was landing quite adeptly on tree branches, in bushes and atop fences. I was also working up an appetite. Ulp! I realized, cheeseburgers and cherry pie were not part of my diet. It’d be seeds, bugs and…worms. Another thought came to mind, where would I sleep? I don’t know how to make a nest. Plus, I would now have to be ever vigilant about predators. That’s why birds were constantly looking around and checking out their surroundings.

This sounded exhausting. My life now would consist of hunting for food, building my abode, constantly looking over my shoulder for danger. It’s a lot of work being a bird!

As I stood there in the grass wondering how one would hunt for a worm, I saw a shadow begin to engulf me. Was it a cat? No, wait, there was the shadow of wings. Perhaps a possible mate? Hmmm, but it’s much too big, it’s about the size of…a hawk !  I closed my eyes in frozen terror.

I opened them to find myself holding a dandelion. It had been a dream, a vivid daydream from which I learned an Aesopian lesson but I do regret that I didn’t get to poop on a car.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Bird Is The Word

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